What is your name and your current occupation?
I actually have a few jobs…Lead Artist/Animator@IBM,Executive Secretary@AAUGA, Producer/Production Manager @ Launch Studio .
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Prior to stepping in the world of digital art and animation I was a Network Engineer for cable companies. I worked at Adelphia Communications in Coudersport, PA as an Operations Engineer, which basically was a job where if nobody else in the company could resolve a customer’s issue, then it was my job to figure out what the problem was. So mostly it was alot of digging around in network equipment and troubleshooting customers computers. When the company sold to Time Warner, I jumped ship early and worked in Boston, Massachusetts at Harvard in their IT department doing system deployment. But soon after I moved there, Time Warner wanted me to move to Austin, Texas to be the Plant Coordinator. They gave me a great offer and I took the job. While living in Boston, I started doing contract 2d art for Iron Will Games. They were based out of Austin, TX. So this was a great chance for me to have a stable job at Time Warner, and work at a game studio during my off hours. I had a great time working both jobs, but after a year of long hours and no free time. I made the choice to chose the lower paying job that was more beneficial to my career path that I enjoyed, so I became a 3D Artist. I worked on a handful of MMO’s, and did some data engineering support for some PC releases. Then after Pixel Mine Games, I landed a job at Spiderwood Animations as Art Director & Lead Character Modeler.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
My favorite project has to be Devils, Angels & Dating. When working with Michael Cawood it was a great time always. Working with remote users, mashing together a pipeline that was unconventional due to the fact that the team was worldwide. The film came out great, and I am very proud of what the team put together. And I am continually impressed with the success stories from team mates finding work from the film.
How did you become interested in animation?
At the early age I was always into animated film and tv, like most children are. But a few films that stuck with me, were Rankin/Bass The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings. I could never get a strong skill in 2D drawing and animation. My brain isn’t initially wired in that way, but in school I loved pottery and photography. I can get a better sense of my artistic output if it 3d. So I think that’s why I went down the path of 3d art.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Initially I was born and raised in the valley’s of Western New York, in a small town called Olean, NY. I think I answered the question previously of how I got into the animation business. But I will elaborate a little more of how I got my foot in the door. I played an MMORPG called Ashen Empires. I started writing up design docs for suggestions to add to the game, and I would include artwork. After awhile I gained some work and direct feedback from the Lead Designer – Bill Money. He was the reason I am where I am today. He gave me the opportunity to work for Iron Will Games(later Pixel Mine Games) to work in their art department. I got to learned 3ds Max from a legend Denis Loubet, which if you know his work, you will understand. One of the kindest most veteran 3ds Max user. Loved listening to his old stories of DOS version of max, and old input tools. Life kinda puts you in a weird path of happenstances, that lead you in the career you always wanted, just not sure how to get there. I kinda stumbled to where I am now. It took a lot of fingers in pies, not being afraid to do work and show it off to others.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I will focus on my job at IBM – seeing how that is my ‘day job’. I create Interactive 3D Product Tours for our Hardware/Software offerings. And when I say ‘I’, I mean it. I am the only one in the department that creates these tours. So there is a lot on my plate with the amount of products that IBM releases yearly. I am flown to data centers, testing labs, briefing centers, etc to take photos and measurements of the products so I have a better understanding of what the product looks like and how pieces and parts fit together. I also get the Mechanical Engineering data in which I use as a base for my geometry that I use for the model. I wrote a script in MaxScript that greatly increases my workflow when creating these tours. Now my ‘night job’, I have been keeping busy putting together budgets, timelines, and potential pipelines for a few animated productions. Unfortunately, I am still waiting for them to get the go ahead. Hopefully by the time this article is published, something will be in the works.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The ability to travel is both the best and least part of the job. When it is spread out, it is a nice change of scenery, but when I am on a plane every other week… it’s draining. But the travel is all for my day job. Now the other job that I do at night where I put together budgets, is something that I really enjoy. Thinking in my head how a production is working in full swing, and managing the cost and timeline is something I actually enjoy. Every production can be represented and understood through numbers. If you graph these numbers, patterns emerge. Therefore: There are patterns everywhere in productions…. probably something Maximillian Cohen would say if he was a producer..
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Waiting for things to start, I think probably one of my major character flaws would be impatience to create. When I get an idea, or put together a plan. I want to get started right away and see how it comes together. I think it’s mostly a battle of right-side vs left-side of the brain. Rational thinking against creative process. I don’t know, I think that’s what I like the least. But even that is not that bad of a part of a job.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Well with my position at IBM I get to be surrounded by new innovations of hardware, software and processes. Not so much that apply to the visual 3d work, but mostly on the computing scale. A technology that would apply most to the visual field would be working with 3ds Max, seeing how it is the tool I spend the majority of my time in for my day job. Past that, I have been looking into production management software and services. Organization is key, and always shopping for the best tool to best organize a team, both in house and remotely.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Am I going to have a job next year, month, week? Unfortunately the our field doesn’t generally have a solid foundation when it comes with long-term employment. **CONTINUE***
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
My first job in the industry at Iron Will Games, I got to work alongside Denis Loubet. You might know his work from the cover art on Ultima series and Wing Commander. He has been using 3ds Max from the beginning. I loved hearing all the old stories of how the software worked, and old input devices that he used for doing 2d and 3D. Throughout the years I have met many animation greats, but that was mostly at conferences, conventions, and events. Too many to list.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Making the choice to make a drastic career move from being a Network Engineer to becoming a Junior 3d Artist. I figured I wanted to do what I loved, not so much what my bank account loved. It took me many years to work my way back up to the pay grade I was at, but it was really worth the hard work and struggle. If given the chance again, I would have made the same choice. I have always been an artist, but I went into a field I knew was stable and concrete. But after being in that job, I saw the next 30 years of my life and I wanted some creativity in it. Thus the change of hats.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I have two productions awaiting greenlight right now, that I have put budgets, timelines, and assisted on putting the pipeline together for. One is an CG holiday TV special, and the other is a CG feature film. I wish I could talk more about them, but alas I can not. I will point out two animated productions that I have walked the fence on and helped out here and there. Hick (hick-film.ning.com) is a community driven animated short film by Jess Herman. And the other is another community driven animated short film, The Gondolier’s Dog (thegondoliersdog.ning.com) by Bobb Strongman. They are both looking for members to complete the productions, so check out the websites and volunteer some time.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Well, hmmm. Not sure how if it would hurt my image or not. But I will say that I am in a few bands, 1 of which is a solo project where I play all instruments. Both are black metal bands, which you wouldn’t think I was into at first glance. But we all have our guilty pleasures that we keep separate from our day job image. Whenever I get free time(HA! whatever that is), I take an hour or two and go to a practice space and write and record music. Currently I am writing new material for a cassette tape(yes cassette tape) release coming this winter. ravnblod.bandcamp.com
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Do not be afraid to step up and start working on any project. Doesn’t matter your experience or talent, it matters if you are willing to work hard, take criticism, and have the ability to say you don’t know. And occupy your free time with projects and hone your craft. If you want to be the best animator, then cut your gaming time in half and use that time to learn, create, and produce animation. Always be on the outlook to learn, create and challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone. I have learned more about lighting on an actual film set then I have from a book to light in a software tool. I suggest all CG artist, atleast expose themselves to a live production set to learn the production process, see all the elements of the crew. And if concrete the fact that you really want to stay indoors and work in the A/C, instead of sweating to death in the fields of the Texas heat. Just saying…. And Love what you do, no matter what, you have to love your job to create great work.